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Our Verdict

Volkswagen Touareg 2018 road test review hero front

The new version of the big 4x4 is now Volkswagen’s flagship model. Is the Touareg up to the task, and can it challenge its luxury rivals?

Steve Cropley Autocar
15 January 2020
Volkswagen Touareg 2020 long-term

Why we’re running it: To see if Volkswagen’s re-engineered SUV is a fitting flagship – and how well it can do diesel 

Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Volkswagen Touareg: Month 2

Less than a clear view - 24th December 2019

The Touareg has been doing a great job of paddling through salt and slush, doing up to 1000 miles a week aided by superb LED matrix headlights with the bonus of washers that work. What doesn’t work very well, though, is the reversing camera lens. Clean it and you can be sure it’ll be covered in crud again when you reach the end of your journey. 

Mileage: 6722

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What happens on tour stays on tour. Oh well, if you insist… - 4th December 2019

Not long after Steve Cropley’s Volkswagen Touareg arrived on our fleet, I borrowed it for a rare ‘social’ with three mates to far-off North Wales. Just the sort of test that a large, premium-priced SUV should be suited to.

As chaps of a certain age with families and plenty of responsibilities, we don’t get together as much as we used to. So once a year we block out a few days and head for a remote valley for a weekend of outdoor ‘activities’ (not just involving alcohol, honest). There are four of us from the south-east, with others travelling from Devon, Cambridgeshire and Ireland. The rendezvous is a cottage that becomes our weekend base camp, although this year I was diverting the southeast quartet for an evening of rally action at Oulton Park in Cheshire, as Wales Rally GB kicked off.

I’d promised something comfortable for the journey, and the chaps weren’t disappointed – even Steve and Martin in the back. The big SUV proved the perfect tool for motorway cruising – quiet, refined, powerful, smooth – although it took us literally minutes to find ourselves confused by the giant touchscreen; even Martin, the least ‘analogue’, was left scratching his head on occasion.

Tony, riding shotgun, said: “The ride quality in the motorway setting was like an executive saloon. I’ve got a friend who’s had an Audi Q7 and now has a Range Rover. The VW definitely competes and feels as well built. And he’s had issues with the Range Rover engine management. Wow, expensive to fix… So if you’re not a slave to the badge, this is a cheaper way without giving up on quality.”

Steve was also taken with the Touareg. “As a rear passenger, it provided a great degree of comfort over the six-hour journey,” he said. “Plenty of rear leg room and acres of space for two adults. Technology slightly got the better of us, though, as we couldn’t get the independent rear climate control working.”

From the driver’s seat, the best bit was the sweeping A-roads that led us from Oulton into Wales. After a fantastic evening of spectacular night-time rally action, the sat-nav told us it would take two hours to make our cottage rendezvous – and it was on the nose. On a clear night, the Touareg ate through the miles, proving remarkably agile.

Flat cornering, endless torque and seamless auto changes carried us to the bumpy, narrow track that leads to the cottage, and without a hint of car sickness from the ‘kids’ in the back. We’d become familiar enough with the touchscreen by now to raise the ride height, and the potholes and rough surfaces were reduced to mere ripples.

The convivial weekend passed quickly and far too soon we were departing for home. On that last leg, we discovered the massage function for the front seats. “I loved that,” said Tony. “It helped me out on a long trip and it’s not just a gimmick.”

Bones and joints begin to creak at our age, but the Touareg was always a soothing companion. One refill of diesel was all that it required for a trip that topped 600 miles, too, so that’s a big tick for the Touareg on tour.

Love it:

Hard-wearing stowage - No carpets in the capacious boot is perfect for ‘outdoors’ living. Swallowed our stuff (and the odd bottle) with room to spare.

Loathe it:

Touchscreen trouble - Why is it so hard to find your way around the controls? Buttons are nice. What’s wrong with buttons?

Mileage: 4747

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Life with a Volkswagen Touareg: Month 1

Smooth running after a few thousand miles - 27th November 2019

The Touareg is perfectly run in now. When you fill it, the promised range exceeds 800 miles and, despite it being a big beast, fuel consumption’s settled at 42mpg. The right-speed auto feels smoother than ever, too, which reminds me what an engineer once told me: gearboxes also need mileage for perfect operation. This one’s now at the top of its game.

Mileage: 4747

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Active assist is actively annoying - 13th November 2019

The constant presence of a lane departure gizmo that actually steers the Touareg away from white lines is a menace and an annoyance. I’ve searched for ways of turning it off permanently, but it seems to me you have to disable it afresh with every trip. This ‘safety’ measure is a truly terrible idea. Maybe there’s a kill setting I haven’t yet discovered.

Mileage: 4308

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Welcoming the Touareg to the fleet - 6th November 2019

The plan to run a latest-spec Volkswagen Touareg – complete with top-spec 282bhp V6 diesel – on our fleet came about for two reasons: one born of recent experience, the other of bloody-mindedness.

After a visit to VW’s Wolfsburg HQ to interview a management bigwig, our reporter and photographer were late for their return flight from Hanover. Our hosts packed the pair into a chauffeur-driven Touareg diesel and told the driver to get the hammer down, and he did: a journey that should have taken an hour took 45 minutes and we made the flight, having cruised most of the way on autobahns at 125mph. We were so impressed by the Touareg’s stability, torque and tall gearing – and the ease of our conversation – that it seemed to be a matter of urgency for us to have access to the same at Autocar.

The bloody-mindedness followed hard on the heels of that high-speed experience: opinion today is that we road testers should be speaking less about big diesel SUVs than we once did, because they’re somehow less respectable, yet right now their environmental credentials are better than they have ever been.

This 282bhp 3.0 V6-powered car is now as clean, exhaust-wise, as a petrol vehicle of equivalent power and performance. Yet it produces less CO2 (just 173g/km) than many 2.0-litre petrol cars. It has a smart 4Motion 4x4 system (ideal for the semi-rural dweller, of which Autocar has several) and, in any guise, let alone the R-Line Tech we finished up with, has plenty of equipment. Our example, even with £9650 worth of extras, will look very affordable to many against a similarly equipped, similarly sized Bentley Bentayga.

And it’s off to a flying start. The car arrived eight weeks ago yet the mileage is already close to 4000 because it’s recognised as one of those cars that comfortably conveys multiples of people, luggage and camera kit long distances at the drop of a hat, and it has the instantly recognisable quality of durability that convinces it’ll be up to the job. The basic price of a Touareg R-Line Tech, about the size of a standard Range Rover, is £58,335, which means it undercuts the British offering by at least £20,000. Even our kitted-up version – complete with air suspension and electronic antiroll likely to be little different from a Bentayga’s – still looks great value.

Most ancillary functions are controlled via a 15in touchscreen that, given the plethora of operations it controls, is pretty easy to master – even if it took two good searches and a trip to the handbook to turn off the heated steering wheel. Even this thoughtfully designed system shows that when a car has so many functions, controlling everything by touchscreen is more a convenience for the car’s builder than its buyer.

The Touareg has the unusual quality of modesty in its make-up. Usually size, price and depth of equipment are associated with a pursuit of prestige, but this Touareg is pleasantly free of such a goal. It’s a well-made car but there’s no excess of showiness beyond a somewhat naively styled gap-toothed grille. Otherwise, it’s no more prestigious than VW’s smaller SUVs costing half the money, and we’re fine with that.

What’s warming is the Touareg’s big-car comfort, the precision of its major controls, the excellence of its instruments and graphics and its thoughtful design touches (such as a rear luggage blind that lifts out of the way when you open the tailgate), all created for use rather than ornament.

The on-road ride quality is outstanding: all-independent suspension absorbs bumps quietly, with great wheel control and far less of the high-amplitude body movement that affects other big 4x4s. Our optioned car is self-levelled, of course, so there’s little difference in ride quality whether it’s carrying just you or four adults in its nicely shaped seats. A fifth occupant in the centre spoils things in the rear, though.

The V6 is quiet at idle and torquey and relaxed low in the rev range. With the eight-speed automatic transmission in Drive (Sport tends to hold seventh), you barely see 2000rpm at a 70mph cruise. Fuel mileage can go either side of 40mpg depending on your driving, but it’s likely that an ordinary weekend sojourn with the family will yield 40-42mpg. Fill the car and you’ll have 800 miles to cruise. If you want to go fast, you can crack 146mph on the autobahn, or sprint from 0-60mph in just 6.2sec.

Most surprising to me, a natural born lover of small cars, is the Touareg’s driving ease given its size. It’s big but not too big. It fits down a London street and into a Tesco parking space. On favourite back roads, it’s agile enough for fun. In fact, for many (well-heeled) people, this is surely the perfect family car. I already anticipate a queue of colleagues keen to grab this big VeeDub over the Christmas break.

Economical do-everything cars are always at a premium for the festive season, and the Touareg looks like heading the desirability list.

Second Opinion

I have a natural aversion to giant SUVs, but on short acquaintance with Steve’s Volkswagen Touareg, my prejudice was knocked for six. The refinement, smooth ride and sense of calm in the dark cabin made quite an impression, and for a big car, it’s surprisingly easy to manoeuvre. Dreaded diesel step-off delay was disappointing and the size of that touchscreen is ridiculous, but – damn it – maybe I was wrong about these big buses after all. 

Damien Smith

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Volkswagen Touareg specification

Specs: Price New £58,335 Price as tested £67,986.50 Options Professional Chassis Pack £4890, IQ Light LED matrix beam headlights £1420, active front climate seats £1050, Driver’s Assistance Pack Plus £860, Moonlight Blue metallic paint with black ‘Vienna’ leather upholstery £850, headlight washers £180, tyre pressure monitoring system £170, increased fuel tank £100, luggage compartment tray £81.50, keyless entry and full electric tailgate operation £50

Test Data: Engine V6, 2967cc, turbocharged diesel Power 282bhp at 3500rpm Torque 443lb ft at 1500rpm Kerb weight 1995kg Top speed 148mph 0-62mph 6.1sec Fuel economy 40.9mpg CO2 no WLTP data available Faults None Expenses None

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Comments
3

3 January 2020
A very complete and competent car by all accounts, I don't like it personally and certainly couldn't afford it either but for those that do and can it appears it will all they could want it to.

3 January 2020
That would've been completely tarnished if the vehicle had been an E-SUV with only 200 mile range.

289

3 January 2020

I really like the Touareg although I dont think the latest 'revised' model has improved the breed in any way. Too much 'Chinese Market' chrome for my liking and the front end treatment is way too fussy compared to the restrained and classy previous (2nd Gen) model.

I think Autocar ought to 'call out' more strongly the ergonomic desert that is the current manufacturer craze for giant touchscreens. They dont work and they are extremely expensive to replace when they fail, (as are TFT dashboards).  As Steve said - buttons are nice! Any dashboard where you still cant find a function after 600 miles of driving, or where you need to go to the handbook for guidance (men never read handbooks!), has utterly failed.

Touaregs make great secondhand buys, as they drop like a stone in value....for me (being a Diesel hater), they are a no go area.

 

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